A work injury can result in a serious, long-term physical or mental impairment. In some cases, injured workers may not be ready to return to their previous position. An employer offers a worker a suitable “light duty” position. Light duty work is defined broadly as some form of adjusted work that a person can safely perform after filing for workers’ comp benefits. In this article, our Fresno workers’ compensation lawyer highlights four criteria that a light duty job offer must meet to the California state legal requirements.
An employer cannot offer an injured worker a light duty assignment that they cannot actually perform. For example, imagine that a 50-year-old construction worker suffered a serious injury. As they recover, they are only capable of performing less physically-intensive office work. An office-based light duty assignment would only be appropriate for this worker to the extent that they are qualified for the job and can actually perform the necessary duties. An employer cannot set up an injured worker to “fail” in a light duty position and then subsequently use that as justification to remove them.
- The Assignment Must be Fully Consistent With Medical Restrictions
A person who is hurt on the job in California has a right to take the time off that they need to recover. Any light duty position that is offered by an employer must actually be fully consistent with the medical restrictions stated by the worker’s doctor. Light duty worker that puts an employee at a health and safety risk does not meet the required standards in California.
- A 12-Month Minimum Length of Position
An employer in California cannot create a light duty position for a worker and then turn around and immediately lay them off because the position is “not necessary.” To meet the required statutory standards in the state, a light duty position must last for a minimum period of 12 months.
- The Commuting Distance Must be Reasonable
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) also requires that the community distance for a light duty position is “reasonable” for the worker. What constitutes a reasonable distance depends, in part, on the specific circumstances. If there is a dispute over this issue, the key factors will be:
- Where the employee resides at the time that the suffered a work-related injury;
- Where the employee was expected to work before their accident; and
- Where the new position would require them to commute to and from.
Joseph C. Yrulegui is an experienced advocate for injured workers. If you have any specific questions about light duty work, we are available to help. Contact our legal team today to arrange a fully confidential, comprehensive review of your case. With a law office in Fresno, we provide workers’ compensation representation throughout the region, including in Fresno County, Madera County, Kings County, and Tulare County.